Exclusive: trackside with Renault's Alpine A 110-50 concept
TopGear gets close to Renault's new concept racer at the Monaco Grand Prix. And our ears are still ringing...
It sounds magnificent. After a grainy photo escaped onto the internet earlier this week, Renault has officially launched its Alpine A 110-50 concept around Monaco's GP circuit. TopGear can officially reveal from trackside that the mid-engined 400bhp V6 concept sounds like, well, a race car running without silencers.
That's because it's a race car running without silencers. As we revealed earlier this week, the Alpine concept is based around Renault's Megane Trophy racer, but unfortunately the engineers forgot to fit any of the stuff to make it adhere to noise regulations. The A 110-50 made the entire GP2 grid - on track just before it - sound muted.
This was no show-car amble, either. Renault Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares blasted the A110-50 on four laps of the Monaco track, and - believe us - he wasn't hanging around, launching off the line with a dollop of drifty wheelspin and generally ragging the concept right to the redline round the tight circuit. As a method of launching a concept, it sure beats a dust-sheet in an underlit corner of the Frankfurt motor show.
So, beyond a celebration of 50 years of Alpine and a chance for your CEO to fulfil his boyhood dream, what's the Alpine really about? After several aborted attempts, it's Renault's final shot at bringing a bona fide sports car to production. "If we don't do it this time," one company boss told me, "we never will...."
That's why they've wheeled out the Alpine name. Renault is well aware of the danger of invoking the iconic French marque, and is determined to do it justice. "Alpine is not owned by us," Renault design boss Laurens van den Acker told TG. "It's owned by everyone who loves cars. Alpine is one of those rare names that has no negative connotations... so I know I can't screw this one up."
While a 400bhp mid-mounted V6, six-speed sequential 'box and adjustable dampers are probably a bit much to expect from an Alpine production car, Renault sources reiterated that a road-going version would most likely use a turbocharged two-litre petrol engine. They're keen to assess 'public feedback' on the design, so feel free to tell 'em which bits you like - and which you don't - in the comments box below. We'll pass on the ones with the best spelling.
Company chiefs told TopGear they have been looking closely at where a Renault sports car would sit in the market, suggesting it'd slot - in terms of both price and luxury - between the Lotus Elise and Porsche Cayman. Quite a wide window, then, but a good one to aim for, we reckon. So let 'em know, TopGear.com: what do you want from your two-seater Renault sports car, beyond RenaultSport handling and lots of noise? Leather and toys (as it were), or bare-bones lightweight thrills?